Nav: Home

Pain sensors specialized for specific sensations

November 11, 2016

Many pain-sensing nerves in the body are thought to respond to all types of 'painful events', but new UCL research in mice reveals that in fact most are specialised to respond to specific types such as heat, cold or mechanical pain.

The study, published in Science Advances and funded by Wellcome and Arthritis Research UK, found that over 85% of pain-sensing neurons in whole organisms are sensitive to one specific type of painful stimulus. It was previously thought that most pain-sensing neurons were very similar, so the new finding could enable scientists to develop new specific painkillers for different pain conditions.

Previous research using electrodes to monitor pain-sensing neurons had suggested that they respond to all types of pain, but the new study suggests that this recording technique may have altered the neuron's properties.

"While the majority of neurons are specific to one type of pain, they can become universal pain sensors when the tissue is damaged," explains lead author Dr Edward Emery (UCL Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research). "This may explain the discrepancies between our findings and those from other studies where more invasive approaches have been used."

The team used a form of fluorescent activity-dependent imaging, where pain-sensing neurons in mice were genetically marked to emit a fluorescent glow when activated. The mice were briefly exposed to either a small pinch, cold water or hot water stimulus on one of their paws to see which neurons were activated. The results showed that over 85% of pain-sensing neurons were specific to one type of pain and did not react to others.

"Our next step is to look at animal models for specific chronic pain conditions to see which neurons cells are activated," says senior author Professor John Wood (UCL Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research). "We hope to identify the different neurons through which chronic pain can develop, so that focussed treatments can be developed. We use 'chronic pain' to describe all sorts of pain conditions with different causes, but we now need to differentiate them so that we can develop new specific treatments."
-end-


University College London

Related Neurons Articles:

How do we get so many different types of neurons in our brain?
SMU (Southern Methodist University) researchers have discovered another layer of complexity in gene expression, which could help explain how we're able to have so many billions of neurons in our brain.
These neurons affect how much you do, or don't, want to eat
University of Arizona researchers have identified a network of neurons that coordinate with other brain regions to influence eating behaviors.
Mood neurons mature during adolescence
Researchers have discovered a mysterious group of neurons in the amygdala -- a key center for emotional processing in the brain -- that stay in an immature, prenatal developmental state throughout childhood.
Astrocytes protect neurons from toxic buildup
Neurons off-load toxic by-products to astrocytes, which process and recycle them.
Connecting neurons in the brain
Leuven researchers uncover new mechanisms of brain development that determine when, where and how strongly distinct brain cells interconnect.
More Neurons News and Neurons Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...